Above: Mail by camel transport - Charleville & district. Source: NAA, Item: 3296500. Below: Early mail coach PMG possibly Charleville. Source: NAA Item: 1650785. Bottom: Earliest known motor mail in Queensland, Isisford to Ilfracombe, 1910. Source: NAA Item: 3025042.
Ever written something which later you found out was absolutely spot on, but you didn't know it at the time? I've had this happen a couple of times when writing my historical stories. The first occurrence happened when I wrote All Quiet on the Western Plains - about a place I had never visited - although I had read extensively about western Queensland and poured over historical photographs. A month after the novella was published, I travelled to western Queensland for the first time, visiting Blackall, Barcaldine, Aramac, Isisford, Longreach and places in between. The country was as amazing as I thought it would be and my description of it had been accurate. What a fluke, I thought. When I came to write the sequel, Journey's End on the Western Plains, also set in 1924, I started the story with the hero,hitching a ride in the mailman's truck. At the end of the story he applies for the mail run contract and gets the job. As a writer, I thought it was the perfect solution for my characters and story. Mail contractor was the perfect job for the hero as it allowed him to live in the mythical town of "Idavale" and regularly visit his family's property at the other end of the mail run. At the time I thought, oh yeah, he'll have the same chance as anyone else. He's a good bush mechanic, he'll be able to fix any breakdowns. Recently I attended a talk about early mail services in Queensland in the 19th and 20th centuries, held by the National Archives of Australia in Brisbane. The NAA have over 1000 photographs relating to Cobb & Co mail coaches, mail men, their horses and trucks and post offices in the collection, plus numerous written records. What astonished me was the discovery that, after World War I, the Australian Government awarded mail contracts on a preferential basis to returned servicemen - like my hero. I was gobsmacked by this discovery. I had got his ideal job so right. Here was proof that my character would have been awarded that contract - as long as no other returned serviceman had applied at the same time! As far as I'm concerned, serendipity* in research and writing is a real phenomenon. Have you had similar experiences?